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Ghost in the Shell may be one of the most fascinating sci-fi series in existence because of how it approaches identity. Human consciousness and individuality are gone, race and gender are too, and who we are comes into question when we can hop in and out of other robot’s shells. The ghost is a spirit and is tied to identity, but what is it really? This book delves deeply into these concepts and more as it explores different aspects of the world surrounding the Ghost in the Shell franchise.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
A covert mission in Shanghai reunites Kusanagi with a wartime rival amid shifting loyalties. The infiltration of an anti-cyberization cult calls for Section 9’s most “human” members to do things the old-fashioned way. A deep dive into the mind of a criminal forces Kusanagi to question the nature of imagination – and her own identity. The stories in Global Neural Network bring a 21st-century perspective to its questions of human identity and the border between mind and machine that made The Ghost in the Shell one of the most revered manga of all time, and unleash top Western comics artists on eye-popping action scenes starring Kusanagi, Batou, Togusa, Aramaki, and all the members of Section 9!
Why does this matter?
Broken down into four stories, each tale either ties directly into the hit films and manga or delivers some new information and perspectives on the world. Motoko Kusanagi is a lead character in many of the stories, but in a surprise third story writer Genevieve Valentine and artist Brent Schoonover explore what has happened to America. If you’re a completionist you’ll read this regardless, but fans of the movie will want to check this out just to see how the world is fleshed out a little bit more. It’s also worth noting this book is in American comics style and not manga style.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is a nice anthology touching on different elements be they identity, war times, the state of the American future, or new kinds of hacking. This is a rather cool collection too, because the stories aren’t connected but they flesh out a world that is made more fascinating with each story. The book itself is well made too, with quality paper and a hardcover that’s spine is painted to look metallic. Keen eyes will also note that Becky Cloonan drew a beautiful full page of Motoko Kusanagi which is used on the contents page.
The first story is written by Max Gladstone with art by David Lopez and delves into the military aspect of Kusanagi’s past and how that connects to her current life working for Section 9. This is a great example of how there are infinite stories to tell about when Kusanagi and Batou were partners solving crimes. Gladstone uses a character called Li who is an example of what may happen if Kusanagi were to leave Section 9 and yet still be drawn to the killing the job requires. There’s also a fascinating plot twist involving soldiers being used and tricked. The visual style is great due to Lopez’s ability to draw well-choreographed action.
The second story is written by Alex De Campi with art by Giannis Milonogiannis. This story also follows a Motoko Kusanagi and her team on a mission which actually takes some of them to America. This story is a good action piece and could probably be a great short anime, with psychological aspects tying into the illegal trade of stolen robot bodies called shells. De Campi also explores what it means to be semi-robotic with only a few augmentations rather than uploading your body to a shell. Milonogiannis draws in an almost ’80s style that also comes with some cutesy manga-inspired comedic panels here and there.
The third story written by Genevieve Valentine with art by Khoi Pham is all about a human woman with no augmentation trying to get by in America. It takes her across the border from Mexico and reveals what has happened to the United States. This story does a good job of showing how not being augmented can be very difficult in a world that’s completely connected.
The fourth and final story is written by Brendan Fletcher with art by LANZ. This is one of the best stories in the collection, going to trippy places as hackers attempt to find works of art and inspiration. This story also uses Motoko Kusanagi in interesting ways that push and surprise even her. The visuals are also mind-bending (and I mean that literally and figuratively), pushing the narrative in interesting and visually stimulating ways.
It can’t be perfect can it?
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The third story set in America doesn’t have the most seamless narrative flow. The captions don’t lead anywhere and the twist at the end comes out of nowhere. You can get the gist of the story, but a deeper meaning is attempted and doesn’t feel all that rewarding. The best part is just finding out what is going on with America.
The first story is good but doesn’t delve too deeply into the identity angle the series is so adept at. This portion is more about the latest operation of Sector 9, with a hint of psychological elements.
Is it good?
This is a great collection that further develops and reinforces how cool Ghost in the Shell can be. It makes a strong argument that more anthologies like it could not only add to the world, but make it a richer one to explore.
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